On Tuesday, May 27, Google unveiled its design for self-driving cars. Big surprises for Google’s guinea-pig passengers include the absence of both steering wheel and pedals and a two-seat design that resembles a ride in a theme park.
The new Google car looks nothing like the Toyota Prius, Audi TT, or Toyota Lexus, which Google previously used for its self-driving trials. A laser radar system, with the range finder mounted on the top, however, remains a part of Google’s new design.
In this bold iteration, Google, a non-automotive company, is clearly committed to changing the conversation around self-driving cars.
Rather than promoting the self-driving car as an extension to cars we own today, Google is pitching the new prototype as a completely new category of transportation, like a “robo taxi” that picks up the young, the old, and the disabled to carry them from point A to point B.
Google’s promo video makes that clear. As Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, wrote in the comment section of the video clip, this is “a next step for the self-driving car team... this video says it all.”
Beyond all the technology and regulatory issues anticipated, I firmly believe that the biggest hurdle autonomous cars must clear is us: namely, our deeply rooted -- and not entirely unreasonable -- distrust of machines.
No, I’m not being a Luddite here.
One of the prevailing, recurrent themes of science fiction, from Karel Capek to the Terminator films, depicts a benevolent machine whose intelligence has progressed to the point beyond that of humans. But somehow, something goes wrong, and we, the humans, don’t have a clue about how to stop the machine.
I think Google, a master of its own messaging, has seen the movie. In fact, the company makes mighty efforts in the promotional video to ease that yet-to-surface, basic human trepidation about machines.
Sure, we hear people casually talking about how “cool” Google’s self-driving car is. It is cool. But in reality, I think many of us would still need a lot more convincing before plunking down, sometime around 2020, serious money for an autonomous car.
However, if the self-driving car neither looks nor acts like a car as we know it today, and if it’s designed to function as a personal bus or cab instead of a replacement for our own driving machine, I think that Google’s new self-driving car might be onto something.
It’s one thing that conventional automakers promote the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) as a suite of new safety bells and whistles. But it’s a whole different ballgame talking the existing customer base into buying autonomous cars. Decoupling the concept of the car from the very act of driving is a radical departure for any car OEM.
Clearly, the next chapter of the self-driving car isn’t about designing the super-cool car of the next decade, which most carmakers are very good at.
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin believes the new Google car prototypes have "the ability to change the world and the community around you." Well, even if you don’t totally buy into the altruistic pitch that Google cars will help the underserved, Google has taken an irrevocable first step in changing the debate on the autonomous car, from being a personal luxury to a tool that serves the social good.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times
Another reason they reframe this as a service , is that a service will require much less cars for a given market , since they are shared, And much less maintnence ,because fleets are much better optimized towrads maintence than single cars, and much less care can be given on usual bullshit car branding , because people don't own those.
This makes google's service much less profitable in the eyes of car companies, and not a good fit with their current business model.
All this is to make it hard for car companies to change and comepte efficiently with google.
Ah, and did i forget google owns a part of UBER - the highly sucsessful taxi ordering startup - which will probably be the distribution channel of car services in the future ?
What can i say - it's always fun to watch strategies by google - because they play so well.
Looking like a dork is well put, but I think the reasons for the Segway "failing" to meet the hype are even more fundamental. The Segway is merely a slightly faster way of moving than walking. Ever so slightly. It suffers from the same shortcomings as walking: too slow to move long enough distances in a reasonable amount of time, can only carry as much stuff as you can carry on yourself, and you're at the mercy of the elements. So, why all the hype?
On the other hand, this automous car won't have all of those shortcomings, but my sense is, it's still overhyped. The bigger advantages of autonomous cars won't materialize until they are made to drive on roads with NO human drivers at the wheel. That's when you'll see big gains in efficient use of the roadway, including closer distances between cars and much higher average speeds.
Until such a time, autonomous cars will be much like Segways vs walking. Not that interesting. IMO.
Sweet, I need one to replace my 91 Spirit I have had since college. Question, how does one carry the occasional mattress, oven, helium cylinder, metal storage shed kit, sofa, lawn mower, 10' conduit, 8' 2X4, tent poles, screen door, 50" LCD TV, or dozens of other items that can fit in or on my sedan? And no, I do not want a Google truck.
I once almost had a accident on Interstate 80, in a construction zone.
Somehow a car that was over packed pulled from between some construction equipment, in front of me.
This driver could not see out any window but right in front of him, and he was pulling *across* the interstate traffic, not going with the flow. He could not see out the passenger window, that was facing me, he did not know I was there.
He shot out from between the construction equipment about twenty feet in front of me, while I was doing 45 MPH, remember it was a construction zone.
The correct solutions to the problem was to floor the gas, so that I could get in front of him while there was still space, and get off on the right hand brim of the road.
Applying the brakes would have guaranteed that a crash happened in that situation, there was not enough space between the two of us to stop.
When do you think a 'Smart Car' will be able handle this scenario? Then I will buy one.
It is possible that, after all of the technical hurdles are overcome, the vehicles might not be widely adopted. The Segway was expected to revolutionize the way people ambulate, but it has failed to garner widespread appeal.
@MWagner_MA, i think that your suggestion for Google partnering with amusement parks, large malls etc where people get to see the self-driving car at work and where there is lower risks for accident can help google generate the right momentum for this project.
@betajet Los Angeles has come a long way since Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released in 1988.
Compared to 1988, almost anything would be an improvement. It does look like a decent system to get to/from downtown LA but as usual for transit systems, it lacks when trying to get from one suburb to another. The transit system in the SF bay area had the same probelm when I lived there. It was entirely oriented to commuting to/from downtown San Francisco. Industrial parks in outlying areas were not as well served. I think where I worked there was one bus in the AM and one in the PM. Fortunately the nearest BART station had bicycle lockers and it was reasonably flat so I was able to make it work.
With Google behind it, I don't think the concept will die quietly. If they are smart, they will start slow, in a area where the max speeds are slow enough that a malfunction will not immediately result in a fatality. Watch for someone like Disney to partner with them for transports around their facilities. If they can get a decade under their belt without hurting anyone, the next step (private road travel) may be within grasp.